Sunday, May 31, 2009

Black Ice 9 - Duality

Hear The Track Here

Second time around for Washington (State) based electronica musician Black Ice 9. The first track I reviewed from this artist was called Hall of the Serpent Lord (December 2008) and appeared to be some kind of soundtrack thingie. Mind you, after spending a few days with it, I changed my mind completely. Its a very dark track, full of little instrumental touches that keep you interested, providing you with aural images that work to conjure up sights such as the Hall Of the Yadda Yadda. Sounds damn stupid in print but the track is well worth a listen, especially if you like your electronica a bit on the scary side. I still have it on my hard drive so I guess that tells you something.

One of the pulls of that track also features on Duality; a decidedly Middle Eastern instrumental feel and structure. Its actually much more evident on Duality than on the previous track. Although this is classed as Drums and Bass (and it is) it could just as easily - and justifiably - classed as World music and it would still win on both counts. At this stage of the game I tend to favour the earlier part of the track rather than the very D&B second section but I would because the Middle Eastern influence is felt more in that than anywhere else - and I love world music in all its forms.

Still, it's that knowing combination of rhythms and riffs, production and arrangement that gained a Must Have for Hall Of The Serpent Lord and will do for this too. Yeah, but what will Joe Q Public think? Duality isn't exactly an easy listen unless you like the genres I've mentioned, it being all instrumental. I think I am probably appreciating it more for its achievement than on any scale of 'popular'. This is the kind of track that tickles just about every sense I have, fresh, different and tasty. Whether it would do the same for you is a different story but if you are bored with the same old, same old this will blow away some cobwebs...

MUST HAVE blend of D&B and World music.

Twisted Angel - Tempted By A Sinner

Hear The Track Here

Or (Twisted) AnGeL to be more accurate but that's the last time I'm typing it that way. Moreover, nothing goth about this artist too, an assumption I made straight away only to have it dashed when I noticed that Twisted Angel was, in fact, a hiphop artist. From Canada? Not exactly renowned hiphop territory but hey, its universal right? As such, Twisted Angel is a completely new name to me so I had absolutely no idea what to expect between assumptions and rude reality. As it happens, Tempted By A Sinner, is actually a great mix of goth influences and hiphop that works surprisingly well.

Beats and production come from the justly famed Shadowville Productions so there's not much to be said about it. After all, if you need a lease track, you can't get much better than Shadowville and it shows Twisted Angel knows enough to pick winner music tracks. Its a surprisingly tame sounding track though, none of the hard edge they can apply and it fits the tenor of the track well. Twisted Angel describes the track as 'gross, dark, powerful, sexy, raunchy, deadly, heavy, angry, lovely, creepy, crazy,weird' and all of those apply. To be sure, you won't have heard many tracks this and - dare I say it - absolutely NO hiphop tracks.

Yet it works, this track shows that.

Moreover, here is a rapper who understands the value of his words. So much so that he posts them online with the track. I only know of a couple of other rappers that do that but I have to say it makes understanding the track that much better. After all, not everybody in the world speaks Ebonics innit? When you cite Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails and Korn as influences, this is not going to be your average rapper and this proves to be the case because the rap is delivered both ways; hiphop and death metal. It's certainly an interesting combination but one I suspect it will take a while to grow into.

Different, that's for sure. Highly Recommended goth rap. Honest.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Cy Of Hounds - Melody

Hear The Track Here

I first ran with this band when I reviewed Charnel House (September 2008) and liked what I heard; a distinctly retro look back to a musical age when garage rock meant exactly that. While it wasn't what I would have chosen to listen to a lot, I did find the experience refreshing. Even more I can appreciate the effort it takes to get that exact sound out of everything that typifies music of the early to mid 1960's - especially in America. Surprising then, that all four members of A Cry Of Hounds are Canadians. a?

'Pretty straight-forward, 2 1/2 minute rave up' is the description offered for Melody and its right on the money in every way, especially in nailing that cheesy, but incredibly hard 1960's rock sound. Coming from an era that spawned the Pretty Things, I recognised their bastard children on sight. I was lucky enough to see The Pretty Things live a couple of times back in the day and the blast I got from this track was exactly the same as I did then. Well sure it sounds a bit rough and dated but its exactly how it should be - at least to pull of the ol' 'remember when...' punchline.

The reason I bring history into the conversation is because of the nod of respect A Cry Of Hounds are making towards an incredibly influential period in music, which meant the Pretty Things, The Yardbirds and other groups became role models for the next generation of garage bands. It's even got a girl name in common with Gloria (Van Morrison and Them), Rosalyn (Pretty Things) and a million others. Its also got enough raw rock energy to light up your average festival crowd. Takes a lot of skill to get this stuff to sit right, no matter what you think about the style, and on that score alone A Cry Of Hounds deserve massive kudos.

MUST HAVE period rock.

Thomas J Marchant - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cyberspace

Hear The Track Here

Finally, at last, the man decides to come out of the closet. Nope, not THAT closet, merely the fact that Thomas J has apparently shucked off the Antennaheadz guise for good, stepping out under his own name. Still didn't seem to stop me having two separate versions of How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cyberspace, one by each according to my file list. If you have no farging idea what I am wittering on about allow me to introduce to one of Soundclick's many troubadours, but one of special note. Thomas J started life on Soundclick as an 'experimental' artist and only recently metamorphosed into the folksy hero we now see, and if that isn't out of left field I don't know what is.

Not exactly compatible styles.

I've been a big fan of this change because, whatever you might think about about his individual style, the man knows how to put a song together. How I Learned to etc is a muse on 'a world without wires?' 'When did we become so reliant?' Thomas wonders in a really pleasant (no other way to describe it really) song that was, for me anyway, a bit surprising. Probably as an offshoot of his decision to start playing live gigs, Thomas seemed to have toned up his arrangement skills very nicely indeed, at least if this track is anything to judge by. Mind you, its simplicity itself.

Not much to it at all. A guitar, a kinda bass note drone and that's your lot. Add to that Thomas's quintessentially English vocal and lyrical style and you have a little piece of magic. Less is definitely more in this case because I don't think I've heard Thomas sounding better than he does on this track; a world-weary bone tiredness pours out of every note. Imagine, if you will, a cross between Syd Barrett and Pete Shelley and that's the kind of area Thomas J nails precisely. A bit more laid back than usual, and nothing as immediate as some of his more recent material, this is a track well worth catching up with. Just the thing for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Thomas J goes mellow...? Highly Recommended Acoustic Rock

Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Brandon - Arrival

Hear The Track Here

The bells inside long time Soundclick veterans heads are probably ringing overtime with this artists name. Yes, to put you out of your misery, you do indeed know this guy. More especially if you were around in Soundclick's dreamtime of 2003-2005. In 2003 a band called Silvertrain ruled this particular roost, the whole world and his brother liked the band and they looked set for big things - even went so far as to almost score an American record deal. To a great many older forum members, Silvertrain were a band that delivered solid rock based pop with a drive and energy it was hard to find anywhere else. Since The One To Blame CD, however, the band have struggled mightily just to get together, let alone get down to making any meaningful music. John Brandon being, of course, one half of Silvertrain. In fact, for a while there, I was reviewing purely John's songs anyway so it's nice to see him finally stepping out as his own songwriter.

Now just wait a minute while I sharpen me knives....

Musically, Arrival is about as far away from Silvertrain as you can get, unless you took a boat(?) It's a melodic slice of pretty much pure electronica and yes you will have heard its like before. As John said of his long absence 'I got bored and didn't really want to bash out loads more tunes that I wasn't happy with' so he went away and worked with Fruity Loops for a while and Arrival is the result of all that work. Well, the good thing is that at least it didn't have me climbing the walls screaming for it to stop and that's always a good start for me.

Certainly its a HUGE surprise for a piece of music like this to come from John Brandon, someone I will always associate with guitars, vocals and harmony vocals and feelgood pop music. John has also managed to avoid one of the major pitfalls of Fruity too by cutting down on the amount of pluck sounds; too often a feature of first time users compositions. Although a plucked sequence leads the proceedings there is nothing in the track that sets my teeth on edge and that is also rare in work like this. Moreover, Arrival is very nicely melodic, in fact a very decent listen if you like clean, clear electronica.

Highly Recommended melodic Electronica.

Charlie A - Sad Robot

Hear The Track Here

I've been completely addicted to science fiction ever since I've been able to read. Having wolfed down HG Wells and Jules Verne, I moved on to the more contentemporary sci-fi writers; Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein and every sci-fi writer of note since then. When I read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov it seemed (at the time) that robots and commercial spaceflights were right around the corner so like many mid-century kids the reality has been - to say the least - a bit underwhelming. Here we are almost fifty years later and they are still trying to teach robots how to stand up straight; actual tasks may take another fifty years.

No wonder the little buggers're sad, I would be too.

Although most of Charlie A's work is of an orchestral/soundtrack nature, we have managed not to come to blows simply because Charlie's idea of what a soundtrack should sound like and mine are quite close. We could never fully agree because....well....soundtracks...I hate 'em. Kill 'em dead. D-E-D. Unless, of course, they are in a film which is where they rightly belong. Now, before I get side-tracked completely... Charlie also has his playful side. In fact, my introduction to this artist was through his laugh out loud funny Bebee Bubba (July 2006) so I looked forward to a good chuckle when I noticed this track was classified General Comedy.

Now I'm sad. Damn!

Wasn't a chuckle in sight, although I can see the funny side lyrically, IMHO the vocal just didn't do anything to put those lyrics across. I am well used to Charlie by now and I know enough to persevere with listening if I'm not getting it but I'm afraid the more I heard this track, the less I got it. Its a decent enough track that you won't mind spending a couple of minutes or so in its company, and even has a couple of nice progressions to keep you amused. Not enough, however, for the long term and, in truth, I have heard Charlie in much better form but hey, as a piece of musical fun? No problem.

Support your local robots!! (in about 50 years)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wreckless Music (Ejay) - Times In My Life

Hear The Track Here

When you see credits like 'Author: Kazper, Rob-J, E.J.A.Y. & Trucky Entertainment' you got to be aware that we are venturing into hiphop and rap territory. Surprisingly enough, a lot of the hiphop on Soundclick is listenable, and some of it is as good as it gets this side of the economic divide. Wreckless Music has thrown a couple of doozies my way (Ed: I think he means good tracks) since I met him with Gemini (September 2007). Like a lot of indie hiphop there are rough edges to this artists work, but certainly not enough for me to really give him a hard time.

Fact is, his last track Apologize (March 2009) is a classic example of why I find this particular hiphop musician a cut above the normal 'peep my ****' crowd. Put it like this, at the time of writing this review there are over 1.3m tracks in the hiphop charts and this bad boy is at #378 which, by my reckoning, isn't bad at all. When reviewing Apologize I said 'certainly one of the best Wreckless tracks I have heard so far' and it seems Times In My Life is following through with something just as good, showing that this upturn in his game isn't a flash in the pan. Luckily, there is none of the roughness that kinda/sorta marred the Apologize track, but it does deserve the Parental Advisory - a lot of cussin'...

Mind you, judging by the story, there is plenty to cuss about.

Musically, Times In My Life is very strong, it's mix of beats, orchestral flourishes and a central vocal motif is exactly what I look for in a hiphop track as is a strong chorus, and this has a beauty. Interestingly enough, it's taken Wreckless a bit of time to get here but there is no doubt that he is on a bit of a roll at the moment because as well as being a terrific song, it has a killer rap - courtesy of the man himself. Like a lot of this musicians tracks, it will take a bit of time to really get it - especially the rap - but it's well worth the effort. If he keeps getting better with each track as quickly as this, 2009 could be a very good year indeed for Wreckless Music. Certainly made me sit up and listen that's for sure.

MUST HAVE hiphop rap. Seriously.

Can't Stop The Daggers - Golden Rules

Hear The Track Here

Nope, no stopping them daggaz, and who would want to? When I was first introduced to Can't Stop The Daggers with High (January 2008) I knew that this was a band worth tracking. So it proved to be as the roll call of excellent CSTD tracks mounted throughout the year, giving them a splendid score of no less than four Tracks Of The Year (all of course in my suitably grubby opinion). Ask around, though, and even someone dumber than a sack of peanuts would discover a certain buzz about this band. Now a four piece band and hard at work on their forthcoming debut album, Chris Chattom, Jon Partelow, Emily Schalick and Lionel Luchessi have proved that great songs, great music and the right approach can move mountains.

There are none more mountainous than a Soundclick audience let me tell you....

If I had to quibble about anything, not something I normally do with this band, I would say that maybe the vocal needs to be redone because - to me anyway - the phrasing sounds odd. Either that or young Jon (Partelow) is singing with his lunch in his mouth again, the words are nigh on impossible to pick out unless your read the lyrics first. Small change though, and easily remedied, or I could just plain be talking bollocks again. As always, not much wrong with the presentation or production, one of the hallmarks of this excellent Phoenix AZ based band.

Now to me the term Alternative covers a multitude of sins. If it is taken to mean an alternative to what commercial music thinks of as alternative, then I'm all for it. Only two bands that I know truly present a real alternative music; Can't Stop The Daggers and Azoora. Mind you, Azoora don't have Emily Shalick as a secret weapon. It's her contribution with a standup bass that is - for me anyway - one of the mainstays of what makes this track work, but I love the sound so I am well biased. Golden Rules isn't as immediate as some of this bands previous outings but the quality of songwriting is there in spades. I don't often quote lyrics (Ed: that's not what we think at all) but 'you're the kind who wants the sun, when all you brought was candlelight' deserves a bit of a mention.

Excellent Alternative in the truest sense of the word. Highly Recommended.

Kennyken and The Electric Jesus - Fade Into The Sunrise

Hear The Track Here

When someone like Thomas J (aka The Antennaheads) refers to Kennyken and The Electric Jesus as 'a beautiful mess' there is a more than a whiff of pots and kettles in the air. Mind you seeing as Thomas is prospering, there must indeed be a market for the more adventurous music. Apparently, Kennyken and The Electric Jesus are a 'garage rock' band according to the blurb on their Soundclick page, but not I'm afraid by any definition I know of - unless you count the home-made feel as being the whole deal. I happen to like bands like Pearl Jam, Nickelback and the like but obviously this is Soundclick and the same criteria doesn't apply. Or does it? 'A lot of people on Soundclick are so hung up on production, it makes me nauseous' Kenny moans on his page but there is a reason for that - because having good production values works.

So what does the term 'production' actually mean? Well for knob twiddlers like myself its the full deal, as in all forms of commercial music and yes doing that takes money. So why then, did I award Thomas J my Artist Of The Year 2008? Because Thomas finally got to grasp that its the whole approach that counts, everything has to be right BEFORE any production nonsense comes into the bargain. The song is indeed the thing, and the way you put that thing over to people is just as important. When listening to this track away from any information sources, Kenny could have been singing in tongues to all intents and purposes; I had no chance of picking any sense out of it. When I finally got to see the lyrics, it made a lot more sense for sure, but it also showed up some of the essential flaws I had already spotted.

I personally applaud musicians who stretch themselves to make their music but sometimes that creative energy can take over events. Listening to the vocal, its obvious that Kenny knows what he wants but too often in the excitement his voice strains and misses. Moreover his delivery is so laconic that those strains and creaks are amplified, especially in some of the background vocals. Oh but Gilmore, you couldn't possibly understand? You'd be right too. I don't understand. I understand self belief is vitally important to what we do, but not to the exclusion of reality which, unfortunately, is bound up with musical theory such as pitch and timing. Don't get me wrong, I see the potential sure enough, just saying what I thought was wrong. One more thing, don't even get me started on the half assed way this ended.... I hate it when they pull out like that. Musical coitius interuptus.

Rough and ready garage rock.

Chrissy Coughlin - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

Like all humans, I guess I am a child of my times. I grew up in the musical heat of the 1960s (yep, that old) and obviously acquired certain tastes along the way. One of the tastes I never acquired was the American fascination with country and western during the 1970's and on. Even more so when faced with the rhinestone studded, glitz covered sham that Nashville has unfortunately had a taste for these last few years. I do like American country music, however, although I think the terms Americana covers it better. This to me is the REAL country voice of America. So what does all this have to do with Chrissy Coughlin, you might ask. Well, it's all about first impressions.

When I first checked her site in a drive by stylee, my heart plummeted because - for some reason - I instantly thought 'Nashville' Gawd knows why mate, but I did. Bad Gilmore, jumping to conclusions. Fact is, Chrissy is about as far removed from that situation as could be. I listened to a selection of tracks on here site over a couple of days and gained some great music in the process. It also showed me that here is a singer/songwriter as interesting to me (in a different way) as Kappa Danielson and Kristi Starr I reviewed a while back. Chrissy has that same style, no nonsense listen-to-me music that has something to say. As a rock animal, I instantly fell in love with Back To You, an incredibly assured rock track that shows Chrissy and her band (Tim Pike, Brad Hallen, Steve Bankuti, Kent Allyn and Cliff Spencer) have the chops and more. As radio friendly as I've heard Back To You is solid material in every way.

So Back To You establishes that Chrissy is a songwriter of note, and the other tracks burnish that fact. Look Ahead is a beautifully realised piano ballad. Sounds tame in black and white but the starkness and simplicity of this track is heart warming and it grows - oh how it grows.... Like a lot of great songwriters, Chrissy acknowledges that adversity gives us the best of our tracks on Watch Your Step, probably my favourite of the tracks on offer. Such a beautiful song in every way, arranged to perfection; it puts me in mind of the better Pretenders tracks. One of those moments, ya know what I mean? If I had been reviewing this track alone this would have gained an instant Must Have rating. Absolutely knockout. If, like me, you appreciated the raw simplicity of singer/songwriters like Kappa and Kristi, this is what they could sound like when backed by fine, seasoned musicians. Stunning.

MUST HAVE. Beautiful songs, beautiful music. Go. See.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Frankfurt Dialog Company - Close To Nothing

Hear The Track Here

The last time I encountered Frankfurt Dialog Company (no prizes for guessing where they are from) was with January's Critic Corner competition winner One Day (February 2009) which absolutely blew me away. It wasn't the first time either, Do or Die (A summer song) (August 2008) was something special too. It goes without saying that both tracks got a Must Have rating from me, but hey what does that matter? See I'm just a guy with a loud mouth and plenty of opinions, especially about what constitutes good music. Frankfurt Dialog Company floored me from the first with their innate musical skill and songwriting abilities but they would because I appreciate the arts. The very high amount of plays and views this band has notched up on Soundclick tells another story... All together now...we should be so lucky, lucky lucky

OK, maybe not that.

Silke and Andreas are joined on Close To Nothing by pianist Christiane Sattler and Hans Christian Stephan supplying trumpet (although I didn't notice any trumpet so maybe I became selectively deaf). The piano, on the other hand takes centre stage along with an extremely tasteful acoustic dropping in the odd figure or two. What comes out is a very smooth jazzy waltz that is just perfect; the balance and feel alone worth a listen just for jaw dropping pace. So, yes, it's probably a given that you should like the softer musical side to really get into this, but Frankfurt Dialog Company bring on its not so secret weapon to tempt lesser mortals.

Silke has a terrific voice for this kind of material, someone wisely compared her to either Carly Simon or Alanis Morissette and I'd say either would work for me. Much more to the point this evokes the female greats of the early 1970's; Carole King chief among them because - when all is said and done - what Close To Nothing brings to the party more than anything else is a great song. Lyrically as well, which is always the big challenge for me but this I enjoyed in all ways. Five Star jobbie.

Excellently performed Acoustic Vocal. Highly Recommended.

Avalanche - I Believe

Hear The Track Here

Perfectionists? pffffttt! Who would have them? Well, a great many of the leading lights on the music scene I know about have lots. Face it if you want to make excellent music (as opposed to being rich and famous) perfection is the driving force. Like many musicians around (especially on Soundclick) it's taken us years and years of slogging away at it to be able to make what appears to be seamless music. Avalanche are also a case in point; a live gigging band for over thirty years has to have a huge arsenal of experience to draw on to sort the men out from the boys, and Avalanche do it in grand style. The whole band has that driven feeling but none more so than Mike Foster, one half of the guitar duo that drives the band and one of its chief songwriters. Not only is he a perfectionist to the nth degree, he wants you to know all about it; as you will see from the song comments.

See? Pfffftttt!

Actually I think Mike does a sterling job of illustrating his music with information on how it was made, and always enjoy reading his ranti... ooops, sorry musical information. It's also something to do while Avalanche shaves your ears off centimetre by centimeter with the best classic rock you are likely to hear. The list of favourite Avalanche track grows longer by the minute so a new one (Mike says kinda final mix but not really, David Pendragon gets the honours for that) is well anticipated. Moreso since it features Stephanie Krowka, a vocalist I have reviewed with Avalanche supplying the music on Oxygen (September 2008). At the heart of I Believe is, as always, a great song. There's no doubt that Avalanche are the real deal, from the opening chords the song has you in its grip as the track unfolds into the first guitar solo.

See, that's the thing about Avalanche, you would be duty bound to be a rock animal to really appreciate the flame they are carrying, but that's where - I believe (no pun, honest) - their exceptional arranging and songwriting skills would reach out to anyone who likes a great song, performed faultlessly. Now, here's the thing. I Believe has its share of rock for sure, the the way the guitars stutter around the point in the verses gives this a whole new feel from their usual straight ahead style and one I definitely appreciate. Apparently, so I am told, this was performed live on the groundbreaking Mike-K show on Songplanet which I was privileged to hear and take part it. Mind you, my mind was sooo blown by that night, I'm surprised I remember anything and that was just an unplugged version with just Mike Foster and Mark Easton, the selfsame guitar duo etc... Can't get enough guitars. Class.

MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended song anyway.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Dead Company - Damaged

Hear The Track Here

There was a time when true alternative musicians never stood a chance of being heard, now everyone and his brother is beating at our earholes, usually with the usual caterwauling and electronic flatulence. Ahhh, but you see, I've been around here for a long time and I remember some of those seeds being planted and one such was the infamous Dead Company. See, in my books there is experimental that is (usually) a series of happy aural accidents and then there is logical, reasoned mayhem just for the fukry of it. The Dead Company fall way to the right of the scale; a band you quite literally love or hate. Even they admit that their music is 'an assembly of noise which you either understand or you do not'

And don't be giving me that DOH! look...

TDC have changed over the years but the focus has generally been with jon bushaway, the main musical influence from the beginning. He is also, I'm certain, the man with the vision thing because despite changes what comes out of a Dead Company track is exactly what you would expect from them. Never a man to rush things, Mr Bushaway dawdles along, plucking our nerve endings with great delight; he's a great one for picking THE most discordant note for your mind to rest on while taking stock. While a lot of the appeal of previous Dead Company tracks was their combination of music and spoken word - especially delivering their own brand of bleakness, I've always had a liking for Jon's soundscapes and in truth, that's what Damaged is.

Nothing like as beautiful and haunting as some of his material and the reason for that is pretty simple. One of Jon's friend had died and he wrote this while ruminating about that event. So then, not an easy listen, and one to be approached cautiously - but there again that's the rule with the Dead Company anyway. Stretching out to a whisker over seven minutes, it is by turns angry, wistful, yearning and - it has to be said - a bit of a musical slog. I have the usual fascination with this artist so listening to his work is never a disappointment but I'm sure you'll find plenty to disagree. Not for the faint hearted.

Sombre, restless experimental. Highly Recommended for strong nerves.

The Rascal Theorist - New Frequency

Hear The Track Here

Bear with me now, I need to get this right (Ed: a sure sign of imminent disaster). The Rascal Theorist is a little bit of The Muse Machine but he is also a solo musician. Rasmael (aka The Rascal Theorist) is a vocalist and songwriter who - you may remember - I first encountered with The Understanding (April 2009). Very, very slick track and one to savour, its class R&B touches marking it out as a great song. Add to that a musical simplicity that fits the track like a glove and you have the makings of something special. I gave it a highly recommended at the time and it's still on my hard drive so ya never know.... It's a given then that I would be looking forward to another delve into this musicians pockets.

As it were...

Ras says in the song comments that they 'were going for a new wave vibe with a indie rock twist' and surprisingly enough, that's an apt description of the track. Its a strange breed sure enough but I couldn't fault the guys working on this track, and that's becoming a trademark of the little Muse machine movement. Personally, I am a pushover for a guitar line that cuts to the chase, and delivers consistently throughout the track and New Frequency is studded with effective lines. Like The Understanding, this is another track crafted specifically to appeal to a radio audience, and an indication of how high the bar is with these guys.

I'm also a big fan of rock based pop and here again New Frequency is a lovely example of the genre. Admittedly I had to get used to the chorus which, somehow, refused to sit right with my ears the first couple of times I heard it. As I became more and more used to it, though it finally sank into the right place, and from that moment on, I was sold. You just can't beat a track that has all the elements that could make it work in the real world music business, and it takes an enormous amount of time and patience to put it together, the least you could do is have a listen to how to do it right.

Highly Recommended rock pop song.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sunburn In Cyprus - Change

Hear The Track Here

Life is full of weird little coincidences. As many of you know, I am known to frequent Mike-K's Saturday Night Rocks show over at Mixposure; a place where I can listen to the most eclectic musical taste I know and heap abuse and foul substances over anyone unfortunate enough to enter the chat room. All the main food groups. I was surprised that the Centre Stage Presentation last Saturday was of none other than Sunburn In Cyprus because a few days before that Chris Bishop had picked this track as choice for review this month. Chris Bishop, in case you were wondering is the musician and internet god who runs POP and POPspace, a website known to be infested with some very experienced musicians. Unfortunately I missed out on the Centre Stage section of Mike's show and have yet to catch the re-broadcast so the track was still new to me.

It's a given that all Chris's choices have sound technical ability, it's almost his trademark. He hasn't picked a track I haven't wholeheartedly agreed with since we started this, and Sunburn In Cyprus are only going to enhance his batting record. God what a class piece this is, and as commercial as hell into the bargain. Despite their very English sound, Sunburn In Cyprus are in fact from Goettingen (Germany, seeing as you asked). In fact, the very first musical reference I glommed onto was The Beautiful South and repeated plays couldn't tear me away from my assumption. Not that I think this is copying what Beautiful South did, merely echoing it. Even so, putting all that aside, this is a damn fine track.

Change is a wry slice of electronic Triphop that tempts you to sway softly on the spot rather than dance your tits off, alternating between jazz and electronica all topped off with a vocal to die for. Courtesy of Milena Jurczik, it was for me the real jewel to be found here. I was always a softie for good female vocals and Milena's almost Sade-like delivery is the icing on this excellent track. It only inspires me to catch up with the Mike-K re-broadcast even more. I'm glad, for the sake of the review, that I didn't catch up with it at the time because it has given me time to get used to the subtleties of their style in one track. A whole CSP would no doubt be overwhelming. I wonder if anyone survived? No doubt I'll see you there on Saturday night to find out.

MUST HAVE awesome jazzy Triphop.

Larry Ludwick - Down This Road

Hear The Track Here

Or Mr Compo as we call him in Soundclick's Critics Corner (Ed: they don't; it's all in Gilmore's mind). Not, as you might imagine, standing for compost but for competition! Yep Larry Ludwick, guiding light behind the very successful series of Critics Corner monthly competitions - and now with prizes!!! - is also (gasp!) a musician. Larry, like a lot of well known reviewers, is in danger of becoming more recognised for what he does than for what he does - if you know what I mean. S'all very well having everyone patting you on the back and saying what an upright chap you are, but does it transfer into recognition of your own work? Not a hope in hell there. Nope, ask any long time Soundclick activist and they will say the same. It makes me laugh when people say we only review to puff ourselves up.

When, in actual fact, we all prop each other up (albeit drunkenly).

Anyway, Down This Road shows Larry wrote a song about rocks. Not, the gunga-gunga variety or even the common or garden stone but rocks of a more abstract nature. The anchors of our lives. The rocks that hold us solid into the fabric of life. Your family, your friends, your loved ones. Lyrically, exactly what I would expect from a songwriter of Larry's nature, Down The Road is a tale of intense relationships and the ground we stand on. Musically, I got to say, it was a surprise and I had to go through the track a fair few times to pick the bones out of it.

As usual, Larry provides a lovely musical experience (it's a slow, almost orchestral piece in reality) although not without a quirk or two. For my part, I could hear all kinds of harmony vocals on this, and strongly urge Larry to explore that possibility. Although not, I hastily add, with me because I have the voice of a sick bullfrog. I think it would add extra colour and texture to a track that - when listened to for a while - starts to feel a bit basic. Loved the track though, the woodwind sounds especially are exactly the right touch, as are the light delays of what sounds like an accordion. All showing that here is a musician who takes great care and precision to make his music and nowhere is this more evident than with the voices during the break. Raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

Highly Recommended Alternative Indie.

Michael Vincent Fusco - The Bashful Ghost

Hear The Track Here

My first encounter with Michael Vincent Fusco, a native of California, was surprisingly mild, considering that Michael likes to fiddle with games soundtracks. Uh f***** oh, is exactly what you would say knowing my venom for the genre. Don't mind playing the games but the music leaves me cold - unless, of course, it's while playing the game. The whole point right there. Still, Michael Vincent neatly sidestepped my usual carnivorous appetite for all things soundtracky by making The Angry Block (April 2009) a very neat piece of electronica lightly seasoned with Super Nintendo sounds. The key with me is, as always, to make the track more interesting as a piece of music than a piece of a game.

A rare thing with soundtracks - that's their nature.

Not content with stretching his luck with his first track, along he comes with yet another. Let's go further. He gleefully admits that 'this is another track towards the Super Mario Brothers inspired album I am working on' Awww man, this just getting more and more lunatic by the moment. Just trust to luck that he doesn't ask me to review the album. Seriously. As good as it is - and it is - The Bashful Ghost is still closely aligned with irritation with my own personal taste. Definitely a point in it's favour though; I could well envisage playing Mario along with a soundtrack like this - I'd be grooving...

Again what saves the day is the intense musical style Michael Vincent brings to it. Sure it's a definable games soundtrack, complete with clouds of aural midges, but underneath all that is solid progression and structure - all in all a very nice piece of work. Moreover, it manages to crunch into less cheese than many attempts it has been my misfortune to hear, and that's always a good thing. There's a nice drum and bass feel propelling the track along, and it sits perfectly with the usual Nintendo sound suspects. I suspect this will appeal to many who share the same horror of console music as I do, and that is unusual. Most of us would just shoot it on sight.

Excellent Mario Brothers inspired soundtrack. Highly Recommended. (damnit!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

333maxwell - Cancun

Hear The Track Here

You see before you, freds and gerbils, an abject wretch. A chastened, grovelling pitiful creature who would whimper at the light of day (Ed: but you DO whimper at etc....). The reason? In my blind and unthinking dash into this months stew, I seem to have thrust 333maxwell into the Gilmore equivalent of limbo. I downloaded the track, so I obviously saw the damn thing, but did it end up on my final list? So, with my butt still smarting from the brisk forty lashes applied to it, and smelling strongly of liniment and antiseptic, I duly reinstated the track and am now obliged to make amends. S'funny, though. Its not even as if maxwell had made it onto my ****list, or is even likely to; here is a musician I like a lot.

Can't say that about most of them. (Ed: yeah you!)

Considering that this musician has thrown every genre known to man at me, its no surprise that sooner or later he would come up with a pure acoustic number. It also happens to be as sunny and warm as its title and that helps enormously to cushion the shock this track gives me. What is that??, I thought, running my aural tastebuds through this excellent choon; some influence I couldn't place at first. Not that it really mattered overmuch because the sheer energy and inventiveness of the track took care of any and all first impressions, and it took me a while to sort through it. Amazing how much can come out of one voice and one guitar.

333maxwell shows a clean pair of heels as a songwriter with this superlative track too, showing that the man can master whatever he turns his agile mind to. After I've lived with the track I finally twigged that the flavour I got at the beginning (and it is just a flavour) was of Paul Simon - and that just has to be the purest compliment. The truth is, I found Cancun enormously enjoyable on just about every level possible; inventive and fluid guitar playing, and vocals that sit in the track boasting about how good it sounds. 'Another quick scratchpad 1 guitar 1 vocal with Modulation and Delay fun' maxwell says in the song comments, but so much more than that.

Excellent Acoustic. MUST HAVE for fans, most Highly Recommended nonetheless.

PS: and not because of the thrashing either ;P

Pilesar - How Can I Stay Mad At You

Hear The Track Here

One of the major benefits of being a long term reviewer is that you get to see endless sides of artists, watch the flow of their work as it were. Way back in the mists of time, I reviewed a track called Just A Turtle (September 2004), a seemingly innocuous track that held no hint of the mayhem that was about to unfold. Over the intervening time I have to say that Pilesar (and his many alter egos) have kept me entertained enormously, disturbed as well yes.... Goes with the territory. The musical nous that has always been the bedrock of what makes Pilesar special has been blossoming over the last year or two with some excellent forays into live and collaborative work.

Ballad of the Possum Eatin' Monster introduced us to a completely different Pilesar, a rocking lo-fi SINGING popstar in the making, and How Can I Stay Mad At You features more of the same. Pilesar is joined again in this track by Logan Rainard on bass and Nikc Miller on guitar and backing vocals and could well have come from the same session. While Possum Eaters dove head first into country blues, How Can I Stay Mad At You drops a tab of acid, grows its hair long and starts experimenting with the theory of everything. Or at least it would do, if it could get its head together...

Yep, for sure to really enjoy what Pilesar purveys, you would need to have a liking for the weirder side of American rock (Zappa/Mother Of Invention for sure, but the Residents and Devo get a look in to) but music should be fun, right? Fun and exact in period detail is even better and How Can I... is a classic example of the kind of cheese that passed for freaking out back in the day. Don't expect a production you can eat your dinner off, and expect to wait a while for the lyrics to register. Do all that and you too could have your mind successfully warped beyond human comprehension.

Fun with a capital FFFFFF. Classic. MUST HAVE.

Pidgeman - Breakaway

Hear The Track Here

I first met UK based Pidgeman over at MP3 Unsigned in late 2007, and to be honest it wasn't a most auspicious meeting. Probably, I now think, it has taken me some time to get used to his style - even though it is usually rock based. I've always had a soft spot for rock and Pidgeman has hit that spot more than once. Ultimately the thing that comes across time after time is how a good a songwriter he is. We've had our quibbles about sound or pacing or some other bollocks but I've always appreciated his clever way with a good rock song.

Take, for example, the chorus and hook of Breakaway; wonderfully anthemic - the sort of thing that only works belted out by thousands of willing throats. Nonetheless, Pidgeman makes a damn fine job of impersonating a stadium crowd, and the image definitely works, I love it most when Pidgeman is on a classic rock jag and Breakway is exactly what is needed. I think where Pidge and I have never seen eye to eye on is vocally, and I have accepted that he has his style regardless but... All the times I heard this I was reminded of what a band like Avalanche (for instance) would make of such a great rock track.

I mean absolutely no offense here, its just that IMHO this could have been so much more. And therein lies the story of Pidge and I, time and time again he has come tantalisingly close to scoring but somehow just misses the post. Not that Pidgeman should be worried, and neither should he/could he change his vocal style. What he is, above all else, is a songwriter who knows how to construct a song - and Breakaway is a classic song in every respect. Enough, I suspect, for it to win Pidgeman some more listeners and that's all that counts. Unless, of course, I can convince Avalanche to cover it hee hee...

Great rock song. Highly Recommended.

Densyl - I Love You

Hear The Track Here

Densyl is a brand new name to me from Soundclick, a country pop artist from Canada. What is it about Canada? How can it possibly contain the amount of Canadian musicians it claims to? and some wonderful Canadian musicians to boot. Well, except for Celine Dion who has the vocals of an angel but should have been shot for the Titanic thing. I mean, come on.... When I spotted the Adult Contemporary label I had to suppress a shudder. This is a genre that has held endless horrors for me over the years I have been reviewing. When I were a young lad (Ed: that'd be slightly before gaslight) such music had but one name, and its name was scorned the world over.
It was known as Easy Listening. Early lift music, if you will.

The music I most loathed growing up was awash with strings so sweet they could rot your teeth, accompanied by the most banal lyrics imaginable; music so soporific it should have been illegal. Densyl more than flirts with this style so I freely admit my bias simply because it is obvious that he takes his music making seriously. The recording and production of I Love You is exactly right for the material, clear as a bell and as light as a feather. If you know what I mean about Easy Listening then you'll know exactly what to expect; lots of piano, acoustic guitar and strings, strings, strings. Until your mind goes numb.

The task is made harder because this track is so obviously well meant and sincere (it's a love song to his wife) that it feels way to personal for my tasks. There again, I am a well known romantic philistine, and English into the bargain so I am bound to dislike public displays of emotion; and boy this is that. Certainly to give Densyl his due, he's done a great job of it and even comes across as a kind of husky Elvis, and I'm sure his wife absolutely loved it. What woman wouldn't? They have hearts, after all. Not like reviewers, not at all.

Romantic Adult Contemporary.

The Cherry Tree Parade - Perfectly Polyphonic

Hear The Track Here

The Cherry Tree Parade are a band from Kansas City MO (same place, apparently, as the Republic Tigers whoever they might be when not mauling humans) who come to us through my blog thing.... Lets see now, ' The sound of The Cherry Tree Parade is an amalgam of yadda yadda'. No, that'll never do. Skipping quickly to their Myspazz website we discover that Jon and Matthew Collins, Brandon Chavez and Alex Reed are the culprits responsible, and they have a lot of friends. Catch any of their indie flavoured pop tracks and it becomes obvious why. The word fresh is increasingly overworked these days so let me use the word refreshing to hear music created with such style and maturity.

Loved it right off the bat.

Obviously they are new to me, but not to making music. Someone who spends this much effort on tracks know exactly what they are after - even if at first glance it's a little odd rhythmically. The sheer amount of detail in the track, vocally, instrumentally and lyrically, shows that The Cherry Tree Parade don't take prisoners. I have to admit that the odd, almost disjointed rhythm threw me for a while but live with it for a while and it becomes indispensable to the feel of the track. Its the musical tightness and diversity that really seals the deal, from the production to performance, this is a gem.

I've always been a big fan of harmony vocal duo's and Cherry Tree's Jon and Matthew Collins follow in a fine American tradition, updated to the max. Personally, I would have loved the vocals to be a tad more present on this track, simply because they were so good but hey, I'll take what I am given in this case. It soon becomes apparent that the musical maturity so evident in the music seems to be coming from some young throats, and I mean young. It wouldn't surprise me to discover that the band were no more that 17 or 18 year olds, and you know what that means. Look out world. At least this time, when fame comes knocking, they know exactly how to do it right. Wonderful, makes an old man glow with hope for the future.

MUST HAVE power pop. Awesome.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Recently Known As Tim - Joy Box

Hear The Track Here

The artist Recently Known as Tim, yeah I like that. It has a ring to it. The man is so recently arrived at Soundclick you can still see the scorchmarks. And you thought it would be a good idea to jump right in and ask for a review eh? Hark! Here that evil cackle? That's the Soundclick Mob baying for blood; fresh blood, virgi.....(Ed: stop scaring away the noobs and get on with it!!) OK! OK! I am, as you know, a curious soul (some would even go as far as nosy) and I like to know something about the artist as well as the music. Now here's Tim Grissett (aka Recently etc etc) so new the paint isn't even dry. And yet...and yet.... While it's true to say that Tim is yet to gain fans (all in good time), one little fact stood out like Mount Vesuvius (Ed: you are NOT dragging that volcano in here young man!). He has been added to his first radio station.

Louie MacNeils's Century of the fruit bat radio...

Now I don't know about you but Louie is one guy I trust absolutely to know what's what. If he says it's good, you can take that to the bank. No, on second thoughts, best to stuff it in a sock. Speaking of stuffing things in things, Joy Box should probably be kept away from the kiddies. Even reading the lyrics brought me out in a light sweat. It is, of course, a song of joy about the pleasures of the squidgy arts - long a rock lyric staple - and performed in classic rock manner by Tim, recent or not. Now, me, I love rock in all its forms so its a given I would like Joy Box (aside from the squidgy stuff) simply because it's so well done; production, performance and arrangement.

As I say, Louie is a fussy dude, so its obvious he would go for the quality. What boggles me is that Tim admits this is home recording but it certainly sounds of a higher standard than most I've heard. The only thing that really gave it away was that tell-tale mushiness of the vocals. Much more to the point, here's a songwriter who understands the point of hooks and refrains and uses them to good effect. He knows his classic rock licks too, let me tell you. There are a couple of head nodders in there that will have you reliving glory days.

Excellent classic rock. Highly Recommended.

Stealthspectre's Experimental Insanity - Enigmatic Passenger

Hear The Track Here

Third time round for Stealthspectre's Experimental Insanity run by Aleksander Z from the 4th Dimension, but to be honest creatures from the 4th Dimension have no fright factor for me. Nothing beats rearing children in general and twins in particular. Creatures from another time and space? Pffftttt. I spit on you. Anyway, sorry about the alien baiting but you have to start somewhere, don't you? SEI is in fact a rather more friendly earth creature who - by past experience - has created some very tasty, dark music that is right up my street. Both Haunted Realm of The Undead (Vox version) (March 2009) and Darkness Falls (April 2009) still reside on my hard drive and probably will for longer.

I like a bit of goth.

I found Enigmatic Passenger a much less immediate listen than the last two tracks, and was probably a bit more laid back than I was expecting. It's funny how first impressions linger. It took me a while to settle into the track long enough for it to work its way into my brain, and I think that ultimately it isn't as strong a song as the first and second tracks I reviewed. There again, that could just be a matter of time and the song will come through. One of the most off-puttings things in the track is the slightly out of time drums (in certain sections) that just don't fit whats going on instrumentally.

Nonetheless, if you like your music dark and moody, mean and magnificent, then certainly Stealthspectre's whatsname is a damn fine place to start. The images he manages to evoke with Enigmatic Passenger certainly exhibit a touch of the dark side, and his voice so fits this style. There again, once I'd grown used to the track, that odd little middle section pushed its way to the front demanding attention; here was music with muscle too. Still, at the end of the day I have to be honest and say that the jury is still out on this one. Whether you will think so too is your choice.

Recommended dark Alternative.

The Gutterpups - To See You Smile

Hear The Track Here

Brand new name to me, although not I suspect to making music, or even to Soundclick, The Gutterpups appear to be a four peice band centered around singer/songwriter Sean W. Tevlin.The webpage states 'Guitarist Shamus O'Toole, bassist Rod Smallwood and drummer Alex Bekracken have all given Tevlin's songs a big piece of their own styles and along the way gelled into an incredible live band' and I could certainly hear that they could be that. Even by the sound pumped out during To See You Smile, you can see that they would make a very decent classic rock event even if, like me, you weren't quite sold on their approach.

Ultimately all music is a question of personal choice and I freely admit there are some kinds of rock I find too American for me. The same, I suppose, as some Americans might consider some English rock as too parochial. To my ears, even after considerable plays, just didn't sit right although I couldn't fault the musicians or their performance. To be sure, I thought some of the production/arrangment could have been worked on a little more to stop the inevitable 'demo' feel creeping in. As much as I tried to like this track, because the musicians worked real hard with it, at the end of the day it just didn't cut it.

Its really unfair to judge from one track so I'm not going to because its obvious that personal preference plays a part here and The Gutterpups deliver their part admirably - especially if you like American indie rock. Initially they reminded me somewhat of Avalanche but somehow the song itself failed to deliver the punchline. I don't know, maybe I'm way too fussy about this but I felt there was a certain lack of excitement in the track that should - by all respects - have been there. Nonetheless, it will inspire me to listen to something else from this band and - as I say - if you like the genre, dig in.

Recommended American indie rock.

Cam's Even Song - Strangers & Aliens

Hear The Track Here

One of the unforseen consequences of the way I string reviews together is that tracks often fall into weird and wonderful pairs. None more so than the pairing on my Ipod of Fear 2 Stop and Cam's Even Song back to back. As it happens, Cam's Aliens and Strangers track always managed to untangle the wretched mess F2S had left my nerves in - and pretty much instantly too. That's pretty much a Cam's Even Song trademark though, as anyone who has run across this Canadian one man hit factory will know only too well. There is always a lightness of spirit in a Cam's Even Song track that is as uplifting as the music, more so when he is tapping two of his favourite inspirational sources; the Lord and the Beatles respectively.

Don't go tutting now.... There are ways to do Christian rock that are not cringe-making and believe me I have watched Cam develop this to a high art. See, like most people, I'm yer average skeptic. I have a faith, and one that has kept me out of serious trouble all my life. I'm just not one for forcing it down peoples throats. Unfortunately, Christian rock has often had that effect on me, and many other people of an otherwise spiritual nature. Cam has always, but always, avoided this problem with the utmost grace; by writing and performing little jewels of sound that are often much more than they appear to be.

Take, for example, Strangers & Aliens. Here's a track that at first glance - for your average religeous philistine - is tremendously daunting. Lyrically this is a Biblical memory verse (1 Peter 2:11) and reads exactly as you would expect but that is before your ears take a short bathe in the river of sound that Cam brings to bear. Clocking in at almost two minutes, I think this has to be one of the shortest tracks I have ever heard from him, but also one of the most effective. Pullling mightily on his 1960's fascination I think Cam has bought off a masterful track here - regardless of your feelings about the songs message. Believe me, this is one of the strongest Cam tracks I've heard in terms of instant appeal.

MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended Pop nonetheless.

Fear 2 Stop - Weathered Love

Hear The Track Here

No matter how many times I face a Fear 2 Stop review, the process is always the same and has been for years. There's that initial vertigo inducing fall of the stomach, your palms begin to sweat and your mind turns suddenly as blank what was I talking about? I have reviewed, I think it would be fair to say, the vast bulk of their almost 200 releases and the initial impact remains the same, even though the music has changed considerably over the years. They have evolved into a strange electronic/analog hybrid that it would be foolish in the extreme to underestimate, or even predict. Hey, but at least they sound like themselves (Ed: eh?) There is no-one I know who sounds quite like this three peice.

Probably an acquired taste. So spit it out before it chokes you.

Of late we have been hearing a lot of material from Dana Castillo but this is a track primarily from hubby (and main motormouth) Billy and Raymond Proseus. As with all Fear 2 Stop tracks, best approached with an open mind and you never know they might work their strange magic and re-wire your brain in order to accept what they do. Some people, of course, would rather sandpaper their face than listen to Fear 2 Stop and believe me, I can certainly understand the feeling - they are not an easy group. Never have been. Often enough, they come up with surprisingly accessible material and follow that with a string of obscure (no other word for it) tracks that baffle and confuse.

Speaking from a personal level, I always feel that bands like Fear 2 Stop present a challenge, and its a toss up as the track develops as to what variety of experience you are in for - in the case of Weathered Love - it's not going to be pretty. Based around a loose beat, an even looser bass and a fascination with those little white keys right at the very end of the keyboard. Those chalk-on-blackboard notes hat are known to irritate the crap out of 99% of the worlds population, including yours truly. The kind of track that makes you want to scream with the nauseating tenseness of the thing. Which, I suppose, is exactly what this band intended. As I say, not a band to be taken in any way lightly.

Twilight Zone? Pfffttt. They know nozzing. Weirdness personifed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Wheel - Fire (embyro)

Hear The Track Here

Yeah, yeah, you can stop with the blinking thing now. I got the point. I know its a bit of a surprise to see The Round One in a review situation, but he hasn't been around for a while has he? What do you mean, where has he been? How in the Seven Wheels of Life am I to know that?? Tell ya what, accept this gag and go and stand in the corner. Now then, where was I? Ah, yep, doing wheelies... According to my trusty filing system, I last encountered the lovable rogue with Too High (June 2008) but it seems like some considerable time since I've seen a real Big Wheel track - he's been working out his collab demons of late (see Big Wheel Remixes for more info).

My enthusiasm was a bit curtailed when I noticed while downloading it that it was 'unashamedly noodly electro-prog' and plumbed the depths of despair when I saw that it was a fekkin whopping nine minutes and change. Nine minutes of anything is a stretch but nine minutes of 'unashamedly noodly electro-prog' could prove fatal to man and beast alike. Aaahh, but (he says, wagging his finger) that isn't taking into account the Big Wheel effect. The reason I've always liked this electronic dance artist is for his taste and style, all of which is evident on this wonderfully produced soundscape/ramble through a landscape based on a circular motif. No, really, listen to it if you don't believe me.

Wheelie has always had a good eye for riffs and sequences that nail your attention, definitely on his strengths and Fire (embryo) is chock full of them. Big Wheel says he kind of rushed this out 'for the final of Tard Wars III' and I fail to understand how you could rush something and yet have it come out sounding so awesome. Full of gorgeous sounds, inventive and distinctive segues and more aural scenery than you can shake a stick at, those nine minutes whizz by - and that is the best compliment of all. It takes something way above the norm to capture an audiences attention in this instant age, let alone stretch it. Big Wheel has been around a while, honing his talent and he obviously learnt some great skills - and he's used the whole lot here.

MUST HAVE electronica

Wacky Southern Current - Ageless Calm in Times of War EP

Hear The Track Here

If your mind persists in reading the bandname as Wacky Southern Comfort, don't be discouraged because you are not alone. Wacky Southern Current (see how I did that?) is, according to the Internet Archive page, 'Marco Cervellin from Italy who, with a little help from his friend Gianni Garbo, recorded these songs at a farmer's country house' This review request came to me from my blog which, I am pleased to say, is definitely beginning to get review requests from everywhere. Soooo, anyway, this band and track come to you through yet another netlabel, Petcord. Specialising in experimental electro acoustic (that's what it says), I must admit I was daunted by the constant references to Ambient.... As you know, not one of my favourite genres.

Clouds Shifting (the first of the five tracks on this EP) is most definitely ambient in every way I can imagine, so normally I would be that speck of dust running for the hills right now. It would take something a bit more than flies buzzing and whalesong to keep this bitter, twisted reviewer amused let me tell you. As it happens, Clouds Shifting does indeed have a whale wassailing in the background but is sure as s*** never swam in the sea, and that is where the track worked for me. In fact, whatever genre it is couched in, this is a class track with much care and devotion to getting the right feel and atmosphere.

Watercolour takes you out West, mesa country to rattle a few old bones and its atmosphere and pace is awesome, a truly lovely piece of music, even for an old philistine like me; wonderful blend of electronic and acoustic sounds too. Nostalgia of the Mulberry Tree is much more what I expect when the ambient word is used; light, air and so many plinky things it can madden cows. Again saved by WSC's sense of simplicity to make a point. Waves is the big daddy of the pack, six minutes of every sound under the sun, with an almost soporific beat. Clouds Shifting (Reprise) is definitely the star of this EP, a lovely, haunting reworking of the title track; instantly accessible on every level. For me, this is the standout track but I have to admit I did enjoy listening to the whole EP and considering it's Ambient, that's no bad thing. What is evident, in every note and silence, is the attention to detail, care and attention has been devoted to these lovely pieces, can't fault that.

Highly Recommended Ambient. (and a MUST HAVE for Clouds Shifting (Reprise) )

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nuff X - On The Line

Hear The Track Here

OK, we've had a bit of that, and a bit of this, so lets have a bit of the other. Time for a bit of nuffcore methinks. Now before you run away with the idea that nuffcore is some nasty internet beastliness, t'ain't. Nuff X is an electronica musician from the UK who, in the time I have known him, seems to have developed his own style, dubbing it nuffcore in the process. Anyone who has heard any of Nuff's bizarre little creations would be nodding their heads sagely at this point, understanding that no one does it quite like the Nuffster. At first he was into breakbeats and fairly standard electronica but this soon morphed into something infinitely more terrifying when he discovered the whole 'glitch' thing and nuffcore was truly born. God knows then, why On The Line is listed as an electro-pop number.

Don't be looking at me that way. I don't make this up.

Personally I like Nuff as a musician and I have for a long time, having reviewed pretty much everything he has to offer. He has been getting very adventurous of late, venturing (successfully) into some areas I would never have expected, and On The Line is one of them. See, this isn't just yer average electropop razzle dazzle, this my friends is a song. Sung, I would hazard a guess, by the man himself unless he's got himself some vocal samples I've never heard of and that is plainly impossible because I own everything that has vocals on, and in every format known to man. As it happens, the vocal is IMHO one of the highspots of this neat little track.

Big sigh of relief from Nuff then, that his pipes have passed the test - if indeed they are his vocals. Although On The Line has its share of Nuff-isms (percussion, arrangement and assorted aural oddities), there is a very tasty song wrapped up in it. Musically it doesn't do a whole lot but when you throw in that Robert Wyatt/Soft Machine type vocal with its treated and doctored sounds, it takes the track to a whole new level. Here is another artist who truly understands the old maxim that less is more. There are wide open spaces in this track (and probably gold in them thar hills too) that allow the vocal headroom to stretch out across the sound spectrum and really make an impact. Very, very odd ending though.

Highly Recommended vocal electropop, with that Nuff edge.

Carl J Hallahan - Warp

Hear The Track Here

Although he is a Soundclick artist (and a new name to me) Carl J Hallahan came to me through my review blog - as an increasing number of people are doing these days. There again, being the musical slut I seem to have become it doesn't matter to me where it comes from; I'll take it from anyone, anywhere and at anytime (Ed: that's quite enough of that kind of talk, I think). From what I can gather Carl is an acoustic artist from Florida who says 'I began playing more seriously in early 2007...', a situation a great many other musicians will recognise. There do seem to be a lot of people who flirted with music when they were younger only to pick it up in earnest later on in life. Nothing wrong with that. A bit of life's experiences do indeed make for better, more well rounded music IMHO.

Best not to quote me on that though.

Out of all the musical genres available to us, acoustic has got to be the worst one to render digitally; something about acoustic instruments and vocals that makes recording insanely hard to get right. So the very first hurdle to get me to like an acoustic track is to get the sound right and thankfully Carl also seems to understand that. Although there is the almost inevitable 'home produced' feel about the track (especially in the backing vocals), I personally think Carl did a real good job at laying this track down. At least he didn't load it down with lots of sound and fury signifying not very much. Doesn't matter how much you put in a track as distraction, if the song doesn't cut it without other accompaniment, it won't help to keep adding to the problem.

Carl obviously knows a lot better than this, so technically I think he should pat himself on the back. Musically, I don't know whether Warp (which is nothing like as spacey as it sounds, obviously the OTHER warp) is just not my cup of tea is whether its just not a very good song. It has a gloomy, doomy approach that doesn't help the overall plod of the track, although the guitars help a lot to alleviate that effect. It's very unfair to Carl of course. Just because I don't like this style. I also know there are plenty of people who do and judged by that criteria Warp is nothing whatsoever to feel ashamed about, and a lot to feel proud of. Leonard Cohen fans will lap this up, and that's for sure.

Slow, moody acoustic, lovingly rendered.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Buzrk - Revolution Threats Level 2

Hear The Track Here

At this stage of the game I have reviewed over half of Miami based rapper Buzrk's entire output, and I'm still no more convinced than I was when I first reviewed One Last Call To Arms (September 2007). Over the space of the ten or so tracks since then, we have never really seen eye to eye although Emissary (March 2008) hit a hot spot for me, showing the the guy does have it in him to make a track that gels on all the right levels. Unfortunately, most of the material is dogged by problems, most notably the rap style and flow and considering that is the centrepiece of this genre that is a problem one cannot ignore. I can't believe I just said 'one'. Someone shoot me quick. Funny thing is that I approach every new Buzrk track intending to be kinder to him this time and it frustrates me that I cannot. See, I happen to like and 'get' hiphop/rap, it's one of my favourite of genres and it disturbs me greatly when I hear it not happening.

Uh oh, thinks Buzrk, this is going to sting... :)

I've actually reviewed this track as Threatening Level (September 2008), a joint by Buzrk and Sinima Beats and actually managed to get a recommended from me although it was infinitely more in favour of the music than the rap. Revolution Threats Level 2 then is a remix of that track (nothing wrong with that, we all do it). The beat this time is produced by JuSaMeLoDy and that's all the information I have on this beatmaker as the link doesn't appear in the song comments.. Good musical style though, a kind of electro-pop feel to it that I personally found very appealing.

I think, to be brutally frank, that Buzrk is probably more of a spoken word artist than a rapper. The more I listen to his style, the more I see that he doesn't really follow any of the normal rap rhythmic conventions. Nothing wrong with that, dare to be different, right? Well, yes but only so long as it actually works. Now try as I might I can't seem to get past Buzrk's idiosyncratic style and - as I say - who is to say that Buzrk's isn't doing it right so I guess it comes down to personal taste. I might have got more out of it were I to understand the lyrics but Buzrk's rushed phrasing and his oddly muffled voice make it extremely difficult to pick anything out - an accusation I have leveled at him more than once or twice. Either Buzrk should take no notice of me (and others) and do it his way regardless, or he should take a long, cool look at what he is doing and try and put himself into our shoes.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fortune - Storyline

Hear The Track Here

Definitely was my good fortune (Ed: groan, and in the first sentence too. Has this man no shame?) to come across Boston based Fortune whose classic rock approach won them three Must Haves in a row from me. There again, Fortune specialise in Ye Olde Schoole rocke, and that will always been my favoured genre simply because I grew up immersed in it. Having said that, Fortune - being American - put their own particular slant on it and come out sounding like Boston (the band), Queensryche, Journey,Kansas and a million others. What makes Fortune distinctive is their knack for writing a decent choon which is what - more than anything - earned them the plaudits from this reviewer.

Don't even get me started on faultless production and arrangement.

As you can see at their official website, they are first and foremost a live gigging entity as their excellent You Tube video collection shows. Definitely a place worth a visit if - like me - you like this band. I can't say that Storyline hit me with the same impact as say All Sold Out (December 2008) but that really was a standout track, and I am probably very influenced by its very American approach. It doesn't stop me, of course, admiring just how good Bob Vose, Bill Plourde, Pete DiStefano, Lou Spagnola, Jeremy Heussi and Dickie Paris Jr. (collectively Fortune) are at their trade.

With most people, the first ten to twenty seconds of a track determine whether or not they will really listen to it. Thats why most experienced musicians will spend time constructing the perfect intro and Storyline has a classic example of it. By the time the song kicks in around :22 seconds in, you are lost in a incomparable time loop, back in fact to the early seventies prog rock scene and - with repeated playing - this track failed to score with me. That is not to say it not good, it's fekking brilliant - a perfect example of the genre in every respect. My problem is that I spent a lot of the 1970's listening to vast tracts composed by the likes of Journey,Kansas, Styx et al, principally because I toured with some of these artists, and I've hated the genre ever since. Can't fault Fortune though, because this is obviously a question of personal taste.

MUST HAVE prog rock, American stylee.

The Forcefield Kids - Razorblades

Hear The Track Here

I must say it was a distinct pleasure coming across the UK hiphop collaboration of Stain(ed) Art and Sleepy, a couple of guys from Newcastle who impressed me no end with their first release Little Miss Star (January 2009). They added to that when I reviewed No Signal (March 2009) showing me that this was definitely a combination to watch. It's a given that I am now a confirmed Stain(ed) Art fan having reviewed him n dozen times over the past couple of years, along the way getting a taste for his very distinctive - and highly literate - rap lyrics. Sleepy I hadn't come across at all until he joined up with Stain, but his well put together beats don't do anything flashy but they do compliment Stain's highly recognisable style - which I suppose is the whole point of the exercise.

To be sure, having reviewed three of their tracks, they definitely have their own sound and style and if you are familiar with English spoken word musical arrangements, then there is much here to listen to. Although rap is rap, the way that The Forcefield Kids approach it (or Stain at least) is definitely from a UK angle, there are echoes of all kinds of traditions in his style, lyrics and performance. He is, after all is said and done, keeping the true hiphop values alive - albeit with an English flavour. Rap, in its infancy, was a highly lyrical, visionary, moving force. It was political and personal in the same breath, and the messages it carried resonated throughout a generation.

It's an everlasting shame that it didn't last long enough to REALLY change peoples minds.

It did however inspire huge numbers of people to turn their hand to it. Some with the objectives of getting famous and filling your boots with swag, and some with the original intention of informing and educating. The Forcefield Kids definitely fall in the latter category and that, I suspect, is why I like them so much. Again, the combination of Sleepy's music and Stain's lyrical flow is probably an acquired taste - especially for Americans used to their own hiphop sounds - but that shouldn't stop you checking out this excellent rapper and his equally adept beats producer. Oh, and as usual, clock (Ed: he means look at) the lyrics on the webpage for finer understanding of what makes this special.

Highly Recommended UK hiphop.

Nad Sylvan - Long Way From Home

Hear The Track Here

In my very first Soundclick year end review (2003 seeing as you asked), I was fairly new to the site myself and feeling my way around the artists who were making the right noises at the time. None made the right noises like Nad Sylvan who became my very first Artist Of The Year. His early tracks from 2003 and 2004 are a shining example of the man's dedication and talent and are still played regular as clockwork in my household. Over the years Yellow Sky (December 2003) has become a loved and valued friend, as have been pretty much everything this superlative musician has ever released. Moreover, his Genesis inspired collaboration with Bonamici (Sylvan & Bonamic first, now called Unifaun) are out and out prog rock and I hate that genre with a passion.

There again, Nad has always been - first and foremost - an outstanding musician and performer, with a songwriters knack he was obviously born with. Sadly, he departed Soundclick a while ago and I am most happy that he has returned to the fold and Long Way From Home should show you exactly why I hold this musician in such high regard. I've never known anyone else (outside the real world music business of course) to take so much pain in getting it exactly right - not a semibreve or a quaver out of place. I know for a fact that Nad goes through endless machinations (and the number of mixes doesn't even bear thinking about) to make such faultless music and that is what makes him special to many of his fans (believe me, he has a great many).

Long Way From Home is a song dedicated to his mother, who sadly passed away this February and is an epic tear jerker power ballad and shows Nad at his finest. The song itself (according to the backstory) has taken shape over many years and wasn't finalised and recorded until his mother passed, and you can see why he would feel that way. There is a wonderful yearning feel to the track that is spine tingling, and the chorus just makes me shiver every time I hear it. I have compared Nad's vocal to many great names (Cat Stevens being the closest comparison I can come up with) but his style has either improved or this track lends itself to a slightly different vocal slant and one I find most pleasing. Agnete Sylvan (March 26 1940 - February 26 2009) not only gave the world her son, she gave them his music too and this is a beautifully realised tribute to them both.

Wonderful tear jerker. MUST HAVE world class music.

1st Dude - Bassid

Hear The Track Here

This is actually the second release from 1st Dude (who is German I believe) and - again - information about the artist is lacking on the Astor Bell website but hey, its just geography right? What counts, as always, is the music. Astor Bell's fifth release is a six track (and I quote) 'romp through the padded cell maze that is 1st Dude's brain. Percussive, sample-based originality' Welp, again an accurate description and should give you fair and adequate warning that being inside a mad percussionists brain is not a safe place for those of a nervous temperament. Experimental electronica, hard edged drum and bass and a maddening combination of the two is what is in store and for that - I guess - you may need a strong musical constitution.

I have to admit that my first reaction to this musician wasn't overly positive. Not because I don't like experimental electronica, as regular readers will know, I often champion some very obscure music (for obscure read difficult, awkward). I actually understand the uses of dissonance and cacaphonia in a more than usual way, so music as challenging as 1st Dude's isn't really a problem for me. My real problem came in trying to figure out how much of what I hear was intentional (pre-meditated) and how much of it was a spur of the moment thing. The hardest trick to pull off is, of course, the pre-meditated route. Imagine having to work out all the enormous complexity these tracks contain in your head. Enough to drive anyone crazy, except drummers because everybody knows they are born crazy.

The six tracks that make up Bassid are It's-An Italian!, Black Robin, Did She Whistle?, Swiss Wisard (Riddim), And You and Should I Make It Out (Riddim) and I find it impossible - even after living with this music for a while - to separate out each track. IMHO this is a music project that really should be listened to in full, it certainly seemed to make more sense to me that way, rather than listening to each track in isolation. It isn't that much a stretch either because none of the tracks stretches much past the three minute mark and some come considerably under that. 1st Dude, for sure, is doing stuff that is original, and even 'edgy' in that experimental way. Although I felt unsure about some of this hard-to-get-to-know album, for the most part it didn't make me switch it off, which is what normally happens when I am not understanding a piece of music. Very strange, and often rough sounding experimental electronica.

Recommended nonetheless for those who like the style.